Early absences among younger R-1 students a concern

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 9/20/23

HERMANN — Try as they might to escape the grip of the COVID pandemic, local school officials continue to deal with its lingering effects.

An unusually high number of absences among Hermann …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Early absences among younger R-1 students a concern


HERMANN — Try as they might to escape the grip of the COVID pandemic, local school officials continue to deal with its lingering effects.

An unusually high number of absences among Hermann Elementary School students prompted one member of the Gasconade County R-1 Board of Directors to voice his concern Thursday night. With 27 of the school’s 245 students already missing more than one day in this just-started school year, Director Kevin Stiers asked if the absences noted in Elementary Principal Kendra Brune’s monthly report to the board was cause for concern.

“The new normal: If you’re sick, stay home,” said Superintendent Geoff Neill.

That was the mantra school administrators and public health officials voiced during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, which many thought had peaked. Now, as local health and medical officials noted recently, new variants of the respiratory virus have produced an uptick in the number of cases. A new vaccine has been approved in recent days by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to combat the expected return of the illness.

The board updated the district’s Safe Return to School policy to loosen some of the protocols put in place to curb the spread of the virus. As for area schools’ Safe Return to School plans, Neill said R-1’s policy was “far and away the most stringent.”

In other matters taken up at this month’s regular session of the R-1 board, Associate Superintendent Leslie Lause said changes made regarding the pickup of students and the loading of students on buses at Hermann Middle School have been successful. Aimed at increasing the safety of students, parents picking up their students at the end of the day now leave the parking lot by way of the outer driveway, rather than taking the driving lane alongside the bus lane.

“The (bus) drivers feel much more comfortable” with the changes, Lause said.

On a related note, elementary students who previously rode a bus to the middle school and got off the bus to join an older sibling being picked up by a parent can no longer do that. Parents must pick up their elementary student and then go the middle school to pick up the older student. There is a provision in place in the case of an emergency in which a parent cannot pick up a student at the elementary school.

On the morning of Aug. 29, Lause met with HES students and talked about the expectations for riding a bus. She reported that each student took part in a discussion about how they can help stay safe when outside a bus.

The board was introduced through a slide presentation to the 24 new teachers and staffers joining the district this year. Of the 19 new classroom teachers, 10 are first-year teachers.

The new personnel include Emma Zanin, 5th Grade; Anna Azevedo, behavioral specialist; Jo Ann Boyle, Hermann High School paraprofessional; Samantha Bratcher, high school math; Emily (Engemann) Gillig, 3rd Grade; Maria Kloessner, co-op paraprofessional; Heather Kuhlo, 2nd Grade; Jed Leeper, high school physical education and head football coach; Samantha Maune, 2nd Grade; Andrea Niebruegge, 4th Grade; Megan Rose, 6th Grade; Keith Sternberg, middle school paraprofessional; Jamie Willimann, middle school paraprofessional; Justin Barringhaus, high school English; Christina Crowe, middle school special education; Gregory Dalton, high school English; Morgan Grosse, elementary school rhythm and movement; Mandy Koch, high school foreign language, Drew Lansford, high school English; Becky Lorey, Title 1 math and English; Jamie Mires, high school special education; Briana Rettinghaus, 5th Grade; Macharr Schroer, middle school/high school music and vocal; Tammy Schutt, middle school Family and Consumer Science.

The board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding between R-1 and Missouri Baptist University that will enable the university’s students to do student teaching in R-1 classrooms this school year.